During spring the space in your greenhouse is at a premium. We all have our own ways of using the opportunities and here are some of my ideas and Yorkshire experiences.
My glasshouse is the standard aluminium roof-span type. I aspire to a dutch type with sloping sides and bigger panes but they restrict tall plants near the glass. I’m too traditional to opt for an octagonal or dome shape and they rely on shelving for more space.
My past attempts with mini greenhouses and plastic constructions have been frustrating and are usually abandoned.
I have just got around to placing concrete flags under the staging – previously it was bare soil but seldom used for growing. Now I store dry goods that are regularly needed and small gizzmos and fixers. Now I don’t need to resort to the hut or garage every time I need something (time is as valuable as space).
The central path has long been flagged for 80% of the length so the growing area is ‘U’ shaped.
I use all internal central path for pots and trays on an interim basis. I also have some flags outside the door for moving plants out for short periods and hardening off.
I have a permanent wooden stage the length of one side and a temporary, portable aluminium stage that fit across the far end.
My aluminium frames have a central channel where a moveable support can be fixed for bubble wrap screening or light string support. I also string from the roof for tomatoes.
Wires or washing line is strung across some areas affixed to the frame to support growing plants. Pegs are used for several purposes.
Maximising Crops my way
My favourite flowering crops are auriculas and cyclamen that are ready to go outside before other plants need the space.
If I prick out too many plants into pots I need to ration myself as space becomes tight for a couple of weeks
I have had good results growing first earlies in potato sacks as long as I protect from hard frost and earth up by topping up the bag. They go outside when I need the space as the frost is virtually done.
Once seedlings are planted out I grow tumbler tomatoes in pots on the top of the bench and previously a courgette or two under the bench but they eventually gets in the way.
I grow tomatoes using a type of ring culture augmented by a hydroponic trough of nutrient and some wicking see below
Chrysanthemum follow tomatoes started off in front of the trough
Catch crops of lettuce and other salads get stuck in where I can.
Through winter I raise pots of early bulbs particularly hyacinths
Other Greenhouse Observations
The foundations are 99% perfect but I would strive for perfection if starting again. I would also build a ramp up to the threshold.
The only growth nearby is a plum tree on the north side but there is no overhang and the light is good.
I need to shade it with cool-glass paint as the sun gets stronger. A tip is to paint the shading on the inside, it is easier to reach and wash off. Outside the coolglass tends to adhere to mucky glass .
I never invested in blinds or shades. I also use scrim, muslin or horticultural fleece as a temporary covering if needed.
I use small flags to retain deeper soil where I want it. (see front right)
There are many thousands of apple tree varieties (7500+)
Apple trees can live for more than 30 years
Apple trees fruit better if they are pollinated from another variety (two more varieties for some apples).
Trees need a balance of roots, new wood and leaves to perform well on fruit production.
Most trees are grafted on to a special stock (not grown from pips). This determines the size of the tree.
So how to use this Information
Think about the apple(s) you want and the conditions in your garden. Match your choice from information about specific varieties. Soil conditions geographic location and other knowledge is available from specialists, a quality nursery or the RHS fruit group.
Buy with care bearing in mind the tree is their to last. Give it space and appropriate soil conditions as the tree will want air and light as well as sustenance.
Pruning stimulates new growth, do it between winter to early March. Train tree to shape before serious pruning and do not over prune in any one year.
Other Commonsense Comments
Apples can be grown in pots. Choose a large one that will be stable and hold moisture and feed weekly from July to September.
Protect the roots of pot grown apples from drying out caused by sunshine on the pot.
I am not keen on the use of chemical ‘icides on fruit but rely on a clean environment and early removal of problems. I will add sulphate of ammonia to increase vigour or potash to help fruit production.
When staking a tree ensure the trunk isn’t damaged or rubbed.
Apples can be stored for 4-6 months and should be left on the tree as long as possible ie November in many cases
Apples are ripe when the pips have turned black and should come off the tree with a gentle twist.
I have found a new commitment to growing and eating Brussels sprouts. From 3 or 4 plants last year I ate several hearty meals including a socially distanced Christmas (not because of any sprout side effects). I treated the plants in a cavalier manner and wonder how much better they would be with a bit of tender loving care.
Reasons for my new Commitment
The plants do not take up as much space as other brassica crops when compared to the volume of food produced.
My soil is fertile and free of most diseases (famous last words.) It also hold plants firmly in the ground a feature I am informed helps sprouts.
In march I will sow last years seed of Evesham Special but also try find some F1 plants of early (maximus), mid (Diablo) and late (Revenge) season favorites.
Tender Loving Care
This year I will draw up more soil round the stem in summer to reduce staking and provide support. (Evesham only grow 2 feet high)
Early sowing produces the best plants so I should get a move on. It is one draw back that plants grow for 12 months of the year but don’t need too much attention.
I have a lot of local pigeons but did not suffered any attack on young shoots last year. I still keep some chicken wire temporary fencing handy should the need arise.
This year after potting-on I will give a weekly liquid feed.
Watering well in summer will provide an opportunity to boost with a nitrogen-rich feed.
Whilst I try to minimise insecticides I will resort to them if caterpillars and white fly start to over power the crop.
You do not need to give your raspberries five a day for them to supply you with at least one portion a day of your fruit and vegetables. However feed your canes and treat your hungry raspberries right with these tips.
Good Food Guide for Raspberries.
Feed with a general fertiliser containing nitrogen for leafy growth, phosphorus for roots and shoot and potassium for for flowers and fruit. Growmore suits me but Phostrogen, Chempak of Vitax Q4 will do a similar job.
If your leaves show signs of yellowing between veins it may be due to magnesium deficiency or the over use of potassium feeds. As a cure foliar feed with epsom salts solution in summer. I also start with an epsom soil feed in early spring.
On chalky soil it may be worth giving a feed of sequestered iron in the form of sequestrene.
Mulch around the canes with well-rotted manure but don’t bury the canes. This feeds and helps retain moisture both essential for good fruit. I also mulch and water in summer.
Prepare the soil for new plants by deep digging adding well rotted compost and a slow release fertiliser such as bone meal.
Good luck with your cropping this year. May you pick enough raspberries to feed your daily portion needs with some leftover to freeze or turn into jam
Purple sprouting broccoli is coming along nicely. It has been occupying the ground for quite some time and has a lax habit needing more space. The old sprout stalks are ready to be dug out (they are too firmly in the ground just to pull out). They take less space and produce more food per square yard than broccoli which is consistently good at our greengrocer. A tip for this years growing plans – more sprouts firmly planted and well staked.
Kale is now flowering and running to seed. I am less keen on this vegetable so the plants get no tlc. The purple leaved version that I grew from a mixed packet of seed was worthwhile for its individuality. I am not a brassica free growing garden but I wont be rushed into cabbages just at the moment so my 5 a day will be sprouts.
It is Mid February and the milder weather encouraged me to focus on my greenhouse in preparation for the new year. For once I made a list of more than a dozen greenhouse related actions and as I progressed down the list more items were added. Without the list I would drift off to do other jobs with lower priority but higher instant gratification.
I started by read a couple of books on ‘cold greenhouse & conservatory’ and ‘greenhouse gardening’ and picked up some obvious and less obvious tips.
Plants need air, water, a medium to root into and sustenance. For the air part I turned the soil in the bed where I may grow direct into the soil but resolved, henceforth to provide more ventilation. A disaster struck when I left the door open and a pheasant walked in and was too thick to find its way out without my firm handed help. Jumping and flapping its wings it managed to break a pane of glass and I spent ages doing unplanned reglazing and there was no pheasant for supper.
As you may see in the before photo above I had suffered an excess of algae and moss. This was caused by lack on regular ventilation, an excess of nutrients and low levels of winter gardening. Using water from an old water barrel may not have helped. I now plan to feed little and often and to keep the soil aerated.
Planned Uses for my cold Greenhouse
Overwintering and care for delicate plants needing shielding. I had few losses except a couple of chrysanth stools and with care could have contained more items and grown early Daffodils, Vallota, & Fucshias
Just visible is some of the paving I have placed under the staging. I will use this for keeping dry goods, tools and fertilizers together and accessible.
The 4 station tomato growing box with a fertiliser sump is in place for later . I may add some ring cultured plants or, like previous years have tumbler tomatoes in pots on the bench. I had potted up some strawberry plants to try on the staging but am still thinking about that.
I have left a strip between the path and staging where I will grow lettuce and may be the odd sweetpea like the weedy example
Gizzmos for my Greenhouse
On the diagonal struts I have a collection of household pegs that I use for lots of holding purposes during the year. Currently open, half used packets are pegged closed.
As an aluminium greenhouse the frame has grooves to accept support devices to string moveable plant ties. I also wire across the length of the greenhouse at varying heights for more support or for short strings
I may move the bench below to go across the end of the greenhouse to support seed trays when the need for temporary benching arises. So the next job is to sort the items currently overwintering by the fence.
When theft and wanton damage happens you and your garden suffer so safeguard your property. You do not need to be paranoid but take appropriate care by just walking around your garden and see what you can improve in the way of prevention
Power tools and lawn mowers have a high theft value as they are easy to steal and turn into cash.
To stop opportunist thefts do not leave tools in the garden unattended or visible in open sheds or garages.
Mark your tools with your postcode and name. Keep a record on serial numbers and identifying marks.
When not in use chain them down so they are harder to take.
Secure Sheds and Outbuildings
Fit good quality, strong locks and use them not just last thing at night.
Use secure hinges on doors
Fit locks or grills on windows
Only store valuable items in the shed if it is fully secure.
With time on my hands and nowhere to go there was plenty of time to mess around in the garden. Messing can be a negative when I fiddle too much and forget the basics. On seedlings I pricked out and cosset the weaklings rather than aiming for strong likely good doers.
I give away many plants and unwanted ceramic pots by leaving them on the garden wall for passers by. Surprisingly, gardening books were not as popular and I still have hundreds which I will no longer read.(that may be a clue why they were unclaimed).
I had some dwarf Hostas in good flower and the whole collection went one evening. I was a bit miffed as I would have liked to give each one to a different gardener. Then when clearing up I found a nice note from the grateful recipient and keen Hosta admirer.
Covid Year Winners
Early successes were the cheerful colours of primulas in pots and the garden flower beds. I saved the large pots full of plants through summer and have just started splitting them to reinvigorate the stock. Some varieties are flowering again right now (September). Regrettably there has been an infestation of vine weevil and the compost/soil is contaminated. They do not seem to have eaten into the roots yet so I may have caught it in time but I am vary of the hatching and spread next year.
Serendipity struck when I decided last year to plant some patio roses in long tom pots and other terracotta plant pots. They have been the stand out summer flowers and have been in continious bloom right through. Deadheading, feeding and watering have contributed but I rate them top of the 2020 season.
An unsung success has been the conifers which have provided cover for numerous birds and a visual range of colour, form and shape. The variety is more noticeable as I have looked more carefully at plants from several years ago when I planted dwarf conifers of many varieties. Some larger plants were turfed out to make space or as they were just wrong for the garden.
It is a new gardening year resolution to give the conifers some tlc with fewer competitors and a more natural habitat. I have named the main zone the conifery. Growth on the larger specimens has been substantial and I will practice pruning and topiary on these outliers in the back garden.
Part of the Conifery
Dahlias deserve an honourable mention and I tried hard with geraniums, violas and sweetpeas which provided bunches of cut flowers and now I await the chrysanthemum display.
I liked the colour combination of this garden center penstemon and for less than £4 I thought it a bargain. The main reason it seemed a bargain, compared to others available for sale, was the lush growth from the base of the root. I have tried with stem cuttings with some success but usually achieved more failures. On this stock plant I could see I would be able to tease stems from the base by the root. I have got now 10 potential plants several with small roots already growing. With luck there are also two stock plants from halving the root ball, .
Reasons Why I Grow Penstemon
These semi evergreen plant have a long and colourful flowering season from summer until autumn
They are colourful perennials very popular with bees.
Penstemon are easy to grow and generally reliable.
They are easy to propagate from cuttings and benefit from keeping your garden stock quite young by regular replenishment.
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